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Alfa Romeo Spider 2.2 JTS

It doesn't take long to establish that, even in entry-level 2.2-litre JTS form, the Alfa Romeo Spider is something of a looker but once the admiring glances wear thin, has it got the wherewithal to keep you interested? Steve Walker finds out

Ten Second Review

The entry-level version of Alfa's stunning sports convertible, the Spider 2.2-litre JTS, offers decent performance and is virtually indistinguishable from more expensive models in the range. It might not be the most polished car in this sector dynamically-speaking but it's well built and should have enough to convince those for whom the way their roadster looks is always the number one priority.

Background

Alfa Romeo has quite a history when it comes to beguiling little roadsters so when the Brera coupe was unveiled, the minds of the assembled media soon wandered off to a bright autumn day and a road winding through the Tuscan hills to imagine what the open-topped Spider version was going to look like. Now we know and unusually for imagined cars that you subsequently view in the metal, I have to say that the Alfa Spider 2.2-litre JTS hardly came as any disappointment at all. It's just a shame they ditched six of the exhaust pipes, the 20" alloys and the V10.

Driving Experience

It's an Italian sportscar, so you want the Alfa Spider to display a bit of character or, preferably, a lot. The 2.2-litre JTS engine might be the entry-point in the range put it still comes up with a fizzy 185bhp at 6,500rpm. There are faster roadsters out there - not least the 260bhp 3.2-litre V6 version of the Spider itself - but this one will still scuttle up to 60mph in 8.8s before topping out at 138mph. The engine thrives on revs so it stays quite placid at cruising speeds then screams into life when you keep your foot down to bring real drama to the driving experience. The front-wheel-drive layout of the Spider 2.2 JTS doesn't lead you to expect a serious driver's car and certified performance nuts would be better with the four-wheel-drive V6 model if they pick an Alfa Spider at all. The car handles sharply enough with inputs through the over-large steering wheel prompting quick responses with tight body control. The ride is firm and the absence of the extra bracing that a fixed roof would afford results in poor surfaces sending shudders through the car. If you give the Spider some pristine asphalt and some clement weather, it definitely qualifies as an entertaining drive. It's not particularly at home on the UK's rutted B-roads but do you really want to stick to the backwaters in a car that looks like this?

Design and Build

People thought the Brera coupe looked good but the Alfa Spider has to be even easier on the eye - especially with the fabric roof folded. That front end with the chrome bars across the raised triangular grille and those headlamps like jewels set against the darkness behind is fast becoming an Alfa Romeo trademark. The 159 used it as did the Brera but the Spider does so to even greater effect. At the back, the Brera's rather bulbous rear disappears with the hood folded, thus eliminating the fixed roof car's only major aesthetic Achilles heel. Actually folding the roof takes some 25 seconds, not quick by modern standards but it means more passers by will be able to witness the spectacle. Alfa chose not to include the ludicrously-tiny rear seats that are so popular in modern convertibles. Instead, you have a pair of lockable storage bins built into the rear bench that supplement the 200-litre capacity of the boot with a further 100-litres and are a far more practical solution. The amount of usable storage as a whole is on a par with the likes of Audi's TT Roadster and the Nissan 370Z Roadster but you'll still need to travel light. The interior can't quite live up to the standards set but the Audi, despite some high quality materials and attractive aluminium detailing. The centre console is actually angled towards the driver, making its controls and displays that bit easier to use, while the overall feel is suitably special for a car of this type in this price bracket.

Market and Model

PRICE: £25,920 - on the road The 2.2-litre JTS model forms the entry-point into the Alfa Spider range and seems sure to be a strong seller. All versions of the car share the same standard equipment list so you don't gain anything by opting for a more powerful engine except the more powerful engine. This plays into the hands of the 2.2-litre JTS, with drivers who are more interested in style and specification than scaring their passengers silly being quite likely to be tempted to forgo the delights of the pricier 2.4-litre JTDM diesel or the V6. As it is, you get a good haul of features for the money. Safety provision runs to five-airbags, rear parking sensors, ABS with brake assist, brakeforce distribution and Alfa's Vehicle Dynamic Control system that includes a useful hill holder function. Other desirables include leather trim, cruise control a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control and rear parking sensors which come in handy as rear visibility with the hood up is severely limited.

Cost of Ownership

The Spider 2.2-litre JTS can return a less than spectacular 30.1mpg according to the official combined economy figures. That makes it just over 5mpg more efficient than the V6 and 11.5mpg worse than the diesel. CO2 emissions are pegged at 221g/km and the insurance group is 16. Buyers doing big mileages will be better served by the oil-burning option and those wanting real sportscar performance may take the view that the V6 isn't dramatically more expensive to run. That said, the price gaps in the Spider range are substantial so you've really got to want those savings at the pumps or the or the extra shove. Ultimately, the Alfa's real strength is its styling and the 2.2 JTS does as comprehensive a job of looking good as the other Spiders. The Alfa's price-point puts it head to head with rivals from Audi and BMW and it would be dangerous to expect the Italian car to hang on to its value with quite the iron fist that the Teutonic contingent do. The Brera's popularity has kept used values surprisingly high, however, and with the Alfa Romeo brand on the up in the UK, the Spider should follow suit to an extent. It may not drop the depreciation clanger than some envisaged.

Summary

Roadtesters will highlight the Alfa Spider's dynamic shortcomings in a sector that hosts some serious drivers' cars but many buyers just want a fun, fast convertible with a pretty face and that's the Alfa Romeo Spider down to a tee. It's only against the cream of the hardcore Roadster crop that the Spider feels the bit off the pace. It's an involving drive that serves up plenty of fun on the right road and is more refined at cruising speeds than many of the sector's top performers. The 2.2-litre JTS model makes sense for what one suspects will be the lion's share of Spider buyers - those who are seduced by the way the car looks. There's little to visually differentiate this entry-level derivative from the more powerful versions, so you cam plump for the 2.2-litre safe in the knowledge that you're not going to be significantly upstaged by another Spider. If choosing a roadster is all about getting sexiest car and the most sensible price, this Alfa could be destined for big things.

Roadtesters will highlight the Alfa Spider's dynamic shortcomings in a sector that hosts some serious drivers' cars but many buyers just want a fun, fast convertible with a pretty face and that's the Alfa Romeo Spider down to a tee. It's only against the cream of the hardcore Roadster crop that the Spider feels the bit off the pace. It's an involving drive that serves up plenty of fun on the right road and is more refined at cruising speeds than many of the sector's top performers. The 2.2-litre JTS model makes sense for what one suspects will be the lion's share of Spider buyers - those who are seduced by the way the car looks. There's little to visually differentiate this entry-level derivative from the more powerful versions, so you cam plump for the 2.2-litre safe in the knowledge that you're not going to be significantly upstaged by another Spider. If choosing a roadster is all about getting sexiest car and the most sensible price, this Alfa could be destined for big things.

It's an Italian sportscar, so you want the Alfa Spider to display a bit of character or, preferably, a lot. The 2.2-litre JTS engine might be the entry-point in the range put it still comes up with a fizzy 185bhp at 6,500rpm. There are faster roadsters out there - not least the 200bhp 2.4-litre JTD and the 260bhp 3.2-litre V6 versions of the Spider itself - but this one will still scuttle up to 60mph in 8.8s before topping out at 138mph. The engine thrives on revs so it stays quite placid at cruising speeds then screams into life when you keep your foot down to bring real drama to the driving experience. Roadtesters will highlight the Alfa Spider's dynamic shortcomings in a sector that hosts some serious drivers' cars but many buyers just want a fun, fast convertible with a pretty face and that's the Alfa Romeo Spider down to a tee. It's only against the cream of the hardcore Roadster crop that the Spider feels the bit off the pace. It's an involving drive that serves up plenty of fun on the right road and is more refined at cruising speeds than many of the sector's top performers. The 2.2-litre JTS model makes sense for what one suspects will be the lion's share of Spider buyers - those who are seduced by the way the car looks. There's little to visually differentiate this entry-level derivative from the more powerful versions so you cam plump for the 2.2-litre safe in the knowledge that you're not going to be significantly upstaged by another Spider. If choosing a roadster is all about getting sexiest car and the most sensible price, this Alfa could be destined for big things.

As an Italian sportscar, you want the Alfa Spider to display a bit of character or, preferably, a lot. The 2.2-litre JTS engine we're trying here might be the entry-point in the range put it still comes up with a fizzy 185bhp at 6,500rpm. There are faster roadsters out there - not least the 260bhp 3.2-litre V6 version of the Spider itself - but this one will still scuttle up to 60mph in 8.8s before topping out at 138mph. The engine thrives on revs so it stays quite placid at cruising speeds then screams into life when you keep your foot down to bring real drama to the driving experience. The front-wheel-drive layout of the Spider 2.2 JTS doesn't lead you to expect a serious driver's car and certified performance nuts would be better with the four-wheel-drive V6 model if they pick an Alfa Spider at all. The car handles sharply enough with inputs through the over-large steering wheel prompting quick responses with tight body control. The ride is firm and the absence of the extra bracing that a fixed roof would afford results in poor surfaces sending shudders through the car. If you give the Spider some pristine asphalt and some clement weather, it definitely qualifies as an entertaining drive. It's not particularly at home on the UK's rutted B-roads but do you really want to stick to the backwaters in a car that looks like this? The 2.2-litre JTS model forms the entry-point into the Alfa Spider range priced at around £26,000 and seems sure to be a strong seller as a result. All versions of the car share the same standard equipment list so you don't gain anything by opting for a more powerful engine except the more powerful engine. This plays into the hands of the 2.2-litre JTS with drivers more interested in style and specification than scaring their passengers silly quite likely to be tempted to forgo the delights of the pricier 2.4-litre JTDM diesel (from around £30,000) or the V6 (from around £31,500). The Spider 2.2-litre JTS can return a less than spectacular 30.1mpg according to the official combined economy figures. That makes it just over 5mpg more efficient than the V6 and 11.5mpg worse than the diesel. CO2 emissions are pegged at 221g/km and the insurance group is 16. Buyers doing big mileages will be better served by the oil-burning option and those wanting real sportscar performance may take the view that the V6 isn't dramatically more expensive to run. That said, the price gaps in the Spider range are substantial so you've really got to want those savings at the pumps or the or the extra shove. Ultimately, the Alfa's real strength is its styling and the 2.2 JTS does as comprehensive a job of looking good as the other Spiders. The 2.2-litre JTS model makes sense for what one suspects will be the lion's share of Spider buyers - those who are seduced by the way the car looks. There's little to visually differentiate this entry-level derivative from the more powerful versions, so you cam plump for the 2.2-litre safe in the knowledge that you're not going to be significantly upstaged by another Spider. If choosing a roadster is all about getting sexiest car and the most sensible price, this Alfa could be destined for big things. STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front, side and knee airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, ABS with brake assist

Scores
Performance 6
Handling 5
Comfort 8
Space 6
Styling 8
Build 7
Value 5
Equipment 8
Economy 6
Depreciation 6
Insurance 7
Total 72

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